Have you ever thought about the “physical” benefits of the “movements” in prayer or performing a rakah? Did you know that “prayer stretches all body muscles just like yoga,” according to “From Yoga Poses to Detox! 5 ways Islam Heals the Body” by Hanine Hassib.
When student Minister Amon Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 34 in Durham, N.C. brought up this point and made a correlation between prayer and exercise in his May 20 lecture, I thought I would look more into it. Did you know that when you prostrate in prayer and place your forehead to the ground, it mirrors a yoga pose called the “child’s pose?” This pose helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and gently relieves tension in our body. Sometimes, after prayer, I will stay in the prostrate position and stretch my hands forward, like in the child’s pose and think thoughts of gratitude, thanking the creator for my life and family.
Prayer is an exercise. However, it is a low impact exercise, unlike a “burpee,” as Bro. Amon mentioned, which is a high intensity exercise move that involves jumping up with your hands above your head and then quickly hopping down to a squat move and then into a push-up position. When performing a rakah, which is a series of bows and prostrations while saying prayers, you prostrate down and stand back up again. Granted, we do not pray in a fast manner. However, since we perform the movement slowly, prayer has the opposite effect of a high intensity exercise. Instead of raising our heart rate, it relaxes us.
For every spiritual law, there is a physical reality and benefits. The prayer position of bending forward and placing our hands on our knees is similar to the “standing forward bend” pose in yoga. When you bend forward, you help to stretch your hamstrings, hips and even calf muscles. This pose also relieves stress, fatigue and depression. When we look to our “right and left” wishing peace and blessings in both directions, we gently stretch our neck muscles. Between prayer movements are the beautiful divine words of “Allahu Akbar!” (God is the Greatest!).
Prayer is prescribed for us at five times throughout the day; it helps to unify and discipline us as does fasting. “Self-discipline leads to the restraining of those passions in our own being that can be used by Satan for the destruction of ourselves and things around us. Self-imposed discipline leads to a healthy society, one where the people truly can rule,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in the Final Call article, Ramadan: Fasting Strengthens Discipline (August 25, 2009).
The next time we pray, we should take a moment to thank Allah for these divine moves that rejuvenate the mind, comfort our spirit and stretch our body. Prayer and Ramadan gives us a time to reconnect. It is like our once a year 30 day “bootcamp” or training that gets us ready for the season. Just like any athlete or soldier, our training isn’t once a year, it must continue all during the year so that we can “stay in shape.”
Let us all stay in shape physically and spiritually by saying in unity, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is the Greatest), because He truly is and on Him do we depend. In How to Eat to Live book II, on page 45 the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “We must have regularity in everything we do.” We need to practice regular exercise, eating one meal a day and regular prayer. As the Holy Qur’an says, let us “pray and do good.” Therefore, during and after Ramadan, let us continue praying on a regular basis and to intentionally perform these beautiful movements in prayer. May Allah bless us all with peace, love, health, wealth and happiness.
(Audrey Muhammad is an aerobics instructor and the author of The Sister’s Guide to Fitness. To order, send a $12 money order to Get Fit to Live, P.O. Box 61402, Raleigh, NC, 27661. Please consult a physician before beginning any new exercise or dietary program. Email [email protected] to inquire about a Get Fit to Live workshop in your city).